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Greek Life on the Rock

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Breanna Diaz
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

In the military, terms like ‘brotherhood’ and ‘brother in arms’ are heard often. This speaks to the life-long bonds and comradery that form between service members. It’s a connection that transcends race, age, and background where people of all walks of life can work together toward one mission.

At Ali Al Salem Air Base, several members are taking that bond a step further with their shared connection to the Divine Nine, a group of nine Greek-letter historically Black sororities and fraternities.

“Being so new to the Air Force, I was very nervous prior to deploying, but knowing I have a built-in family with the other D9 members out here makes it feel like I have a home away from home,” said Airman 1st Class Jaelyn Falana, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron force protection escort. “I feel safer knowing that I have like-minded individuals here who want to mentor and guide me.”

If it’s your first time hearing of it, the Divine Nine may sound exclusive, but the history behind it is the opposite. These organizations were created to promote higher education to a population that was often excluded from college opportunities.

They helped lay the foundation for Black military service and political influence with members such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Vice President Kamala Harris and former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright.

“It’s necessary to see pilots, leaders, Airmen of all levels who look like you,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jean Coleus, 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron senior enlisted leader. “It’s also important to note that having the support of people who don’t look like you is just as essential.”

Coleus explained that, though they are historically Black, these fraternities and sororities are open to everyone and having that inclusivity encourages diversity of thought.

“I was struggling to figure out how I was going to get into college and I was able to get a scholarship at Fayetteville State University, a historically Black college,” noted Col. Jeffrey Smith, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing intelligence, operations and plans director. “It didn’t matter to anyone that I wasn’t Black. There was something they saw in me and something I saw about the organization that made it a great fit.”

The Department of Defense invested $50 million into Historically Black Colleges and Universities which contributes to defense efforts of diversity, equity and inclusion among the ranks. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is the embodiment of those efforts as the first African American secretary of defense in U.S. history and member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

“With respect to diversity, I’ve got to make sure that we continue to make strides,” said Austin. “I equate diversity with being invited to the dance. Inclusion is actually being asked to dance. I want to make sure I create the conditions that young people out there can really relate to and say, ‘I can be him, or I can be very successful.”

The Divine Nine echoes the values found in the military with an extra layer of support to diverse populations and ensures a more inclusive, innovative force through the mentorship and community they provide to one another here at AASAB.